Anthony Brown and the boys bull by the Buffaloes.
The Bootleg's newest contributor, David Lombardi, checks in with his look back at Stanford's stunning win over the Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder.
After watching Stanford basketball’s 74-50 road
dismantling of Colorado, it’s only natural to initially feel
This is a basketball team that plays in two markedly different
gears, and two completely opposite gears only. Just a couple days ago, I wrote
that the Cardinal play games either as hard as a rock or as soft as a pillow.
Well, as if to atone for a fluffy second half collapse against Oregon
Sunday, Stanford delivered one of its most rigid performances in recent memory
to bludgeon the Buffaloes in Boulder Thursday.
Colorado entered the game
leading the Pac-12 in rebounding, yet Stanford walloped them 45-23 on the
boards. Josh Owens (12 rebounds), Dwight Powell (9), Josh Huestis (8), and
Andrew Zimmerman (7) - the same guys who had let a comparatively small Oregon
team out-muscle them down the stretch just days earlier - pounded their way to
loose balls and throttled the Buffalos physically.
Suddenly - out of
nowhere - the Cardinal looked like a physically elite team.
On top of
become the first visiting Pac-12 squad to ever win a conference game at the
Coors Event Center, the Stanford men beat Colorado more soundly on the road than
the Cardinal women did Thursday night at Maples Pavilion.
perplexing, to say the least. But there is some logic to it all. Some insightful
patterns are becoming apparent in the ebb and flow of the Cardinal’s bipolar
To begin, good defense has been a constant for Stanford this
year. Offensive play, on the other hand, had taken a wretched turn after a hot
start. And as recently as Sunday, the Cardinal’s rebounding performance had been
joining the offense and going along for the nosedive whenever points became hard
to come by.
Basically, Stanford had been aggressive whenever their
perimeter players had shot the basketball well, and they’d completely broken
down in ‘toughness categories’ whenever the help from the offense had been
So, in this feast or famine type of season for the Cardinal,
Thanksgiving dinner was served on Thursday night in Colorado. Aaron Bright,
Chasson Randle, and John Gage each buried three bombs from downtown, and
Stanford appropriately responded by gobbling up the game’s loose balls like a
pack of hungry wolves. The team shot 53.8% from the field in the first half.
Their rebounding edge was 25-10 by halftime, and 22 by the final
Matters were aided, of course, by Colorado’s horrendous offensive
performance (29.6% FG), but Stanford’s dominance of the game’s flow was evident
nonetheless: the Cardinal took three more shots than the Buffalos (57-54) on the
contest despite shooting at a clip nearly 20 percentage points
Since common sense suggests that more made shots should result in
less attempted shots, that’s an absurdly dominant advantage that illustrates
just how good Stanford was at corralling rebounds and loose balls to set up
Most notably, it is a stunning contrast to many
losses this season, in which poor shooting percentage had correlated with
Cardinal passiveness on the glass. Remember the 76-63 defeat at Washington in
which Stanford shot only 35.9% from the field and was dominated 47-32 boards?
How about the 56-43 home loss to Arizona that saw the team’s 25.4% shooting
percentage go hand-in-hand with another rebounding failure?
those were night-and-day differences from a handful of Stanford wins, all of
which saw shooting percentages well over 45% and considerable advantages in the
rebounding department to go along with them.
The conclusion is simple:
whenever the Cardinal can just find a way to shoot the basketball decently, they
also muscle up in the toughness department and have the ability to threaten any
team in the country. After all, even a somewhat decent 42.9% shooting clip
energized Stanford enough to defeat Syracuse 36-34 on the boards and have one of
the country’s top teams on the ropes at Madison Square Garden.
shooting the basketball effectively is much easier said than done, as Stanford
painfully learned during its midseason conference slide. But the fact is that no
basketball team at any level can shoot the lights on every single
So, the Cardinal must be able to deliver aggressive rebounding
performances like the one they displayed against Colorado even when Bright,
Randle, and Gage are cold from the field. They must be able to corral loose
balls with the same vigor even when the shots aren’t falling.
consistency must emerge as the team’s backbone so that Stanford can reach the
next level. Otherwise, the Cardinal will remain in Jekyll-and-Hyde purgatory, a
fickle land in which nightly success is dependent only on unpredictable field
Good defense has become a near-constant for Johnny Dawkins’ program. Good rebounding must now follow suit and emerge as the next
consistent fixture for the Cardinal. Thursday, at 5400 feet above sea level - in
the kind of thin air that could have easily caused Stanford to physically wear
down again - the Cardinal bucked a trend and physically shellacked Colorado.
That’s a very encouraging step in the right direction for Stanford
About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link.
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